BY BOB HUTCHESON
It was December 1958. My bride and I were living in Dartmouth, N.S.
It was just 13 years after the end of the Second World War and just five years after the end of Canadian involvement in the Korean War.
Halifax and Dartmouth were (and are) one huge Canadian military center. Local military activity was in the news regularly - especially when it was about the navy.
The latest news in early December was that “The Maggie” and her escort vessels were going on NATO exercises far off into other parts of the Atlantic. (The Maggie was an aircraft carrier with a crew of about 2,000 sailors. Her escorts were destroyers, each with crews of several hundred.)
But the good news was that they would be home several days before Christmas - so life went on. People made their preparations for Christmas - even though there were literally thousands of husbands, fathers, boy friends, sons and other friends and relatives not there to help with the preparations for Christmas.
Then, a few days before Christmas, an announcement was made on radio: “The Magnificant and her escorts had been hit by a huge, dangerous Atlantic storm. As a result, none of them would be able to reach port by Christmas Day!
The news hit both cities like a bolt of lightning. Everyone realized that the soul, the happiness, the traditions, the togetherness of Christmas would be crushed in so many homes and families. What could people do? There seemed to be nothing but wait and hope and keep ones’ ears tuned to radio and TV.
And so it was on the afternoon of December 24 - Christmas Eve - that those ears were still glued to local news when an announcer came on a local radio station. The announcer acknowledged the pain and sorrow of so many people - and said he had a special Christmas song to play for all those facing missing people for Christmas. He played it and people didn’t know what to make of it. He played “I’ll be home for Christmas.”
What did it mean, many asked? Would their sailors be at home, just in their dreams?
The announcer finished with the news: Yes, the ships and their crews had made better progress than anyone dared to hope and they were all expected to make port later on Christmas Eve.
That evening the ships arrived and one of the greatest veils ever to hang over Halifax and Dartmouth at Christmas was lifted and a whole new sense of the meaning of the joy of Christmas reigned over the cities for days, weeks and yes, even years.
Those days will be a part of my Christmas, even this year - 2017. Merry Christmas everyone - 59 years later.
- Bob Hutcheson is a resident of Charlottetown